V&A celebrates versatility of Indian fabric in exhibition

Tuesday 06th October 2015 12:13 EDT

The fabric of India is the first exhibition to fully explore the incomparably rich world of handmade textiles from India. From the earliest known Indian textile fragments to contemporary fashion, the exhibition illustrates the technical mastery and creativity of Indian textiles and is the highlight of the V&A India Festival.

Divided into six sections, the exhibition celebrates variety, virtuosity and continuous innovation of India's textile traditions. The fabric of India presents approximately 200 objects made by hand, some of them on display for the first time. It includes examples of everyday fabrics, and previously unseen treasures, from ancient ceremonial banners to contemporary sarees, from sacred temple hangings to spectacular tent used by Tipu Sultan (1750-1799), the famous ruler of Mysore.

The history of these fabrics date back at least 6000 years. Courtly splendour was proclaimed by sumptuous fabrics, while religious worship still finds expression through sacred cloths. Centuries of global trade have been shaped by the export of Indian textiles and patterns, in demand around the world.

These celebrated hand-made textiles even survived the threat of industrialisation, instead uniting India as symbols of power and protest. Today, young designers are adapting traditional making techniques to create exciting new fashion, art and design for a global audience, giving India’s textile history a new relevance in the modern world.

The highlight of the V&A’s India Festival, The Fabric of India will be the first major exhibition to explore the dynamic and multifaceted world of handmade textiles from India, spanning from the 3rd century to the present day.

Curators include Divia Patel and Rosemary Crill. Patel's expertise include contemporary design, art and popular culture from India, Indian photography and 19th century paintings of Ajanta.

Speaking to Asian Voice, Divia said, “We are celebrating 25th year of the founding of Nehru Gallery and the Nehru Trust Scholarship. We thought it's good time to do something and hence the India Festival was set up.”

“The starting point has been V&A's own collection. But we have borrowed from different collections all across the world- from National Museum in India to private collection in India, like Tapi collection in Surat, to American museums and private collections here.”

“We could not do an exhibition state by state. This is divided into six sections- nature and making, section sacred (that illustrates fabric used for religious purposes), splendid- which focusses on court culture like Rajput courts, Global trade- how far Indian textiles reached out, impact of industrialisation on Indian textile and cutting edge- which is contemporary.

The astonishing skills and variety evident in India’s incomparably rich textile tradition will surprise and inform even those with prior knowledge of the subject, and is sure to delight visitors.

The exhibition, which is a part of the India festival will run from 10 January 2016.

Photo courtesy: Victoria and Albert Museum

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